Under both New York and Federal law, workers are entitled to overtime protections. As a general rule, non-exempt employees must be paid time and a half for every hour worked over 40 hours in a given payroll week. Time and a half is defined as 50% more than your regular rate, meaning if your regular rate is $20.00 per hour your overtime rate would be $30.00 an hour. Employees often have four common misconceptions regarding overtime compensation and the law.
The first major misconception relates to classification. Generally, most workers are classified as non-exempt employees and are entitled to overtime pay, especially those paid on an hourly rate. Even certain salaried employees are non-exempt. Under both New York State and Federal Law, the most traditional categories of workers that are exempt include executives, professionals, and administrative workers. These individuals work with less oversight and are entrusted with business operations rather than day-to-day tasks. It is important to note that your job title does not determine your status as an exempt or non-exempt employee. Rather, your responsibilities and duties as an employee determine your status as exempt or not.
The second major misconception involves employers trying to take advantage of employees by forcing them to work while they are not on the clock or in a salaried position. Unless you are properly classified as exempt, you are entitled to be paid for all hours worked even if those hours are considered “off-the-clock.” Common examples of off-the-clock work may include starting before regular hours, clocking out and continuing to work, working through meal breaks, or being subject to automatic deductions of hours. Even if your employer did not tell you to work off the clock but is aware that off-the-clock work is being performed, it is required to compensate you for that work.
The third major misconception concerns whether an employee was authorized to work overtime hours. If your employer knows that you have worked overtime they cannot not escape the obligation to pay by declaring that it was not authorized work. As a properly classified non-exempt employee, you are entitled to pay for all overtime hours worked, even if your employer states overtime pay will not be distributed without prior permission. Your employer is responsible for supervising and managing your hours and must assure that you do not work over 40 hours if it does not want to pay overtime.
The fourth major misconception is how overtime is calculated when you are not paid on a weekly basis, but rather over a longer pay period. Often, employees do not receive proper overtime pay because the employer averages the total hours per pay period. Under New York State and Federal Law, overtime is calculated on a weekly basis and a payroll week is seven consecutive 24-hour periods, typically Monday to Sunday, with some exceptions. If you are paid bi-weekly (every two weeks), or in other increments, your overtime hours should be determined based on each individual week. For example, if you worked 80 hours during a two week period, 50 hours during week one and 30 hours during week two, you are still owed 10 hours of overtime from week one, even though the two weeks average out to 40 hours.
If you have not been paid for all of the work you have performed, your employer may be liable for damages and your attorney’s fees as well. If you do believe you aren’t being paid for overtime hours you’ve worked, it may be time to contact a Long Island and New York City Employment Lawyer. Remember, applicable laws explicitly protect New York workers who have filed complaints regarding unpaid overtime and wages from retaliation on the part of their employer.